For the sake of simplicity, your fitness goal is to get fit or stay fit. You want muscle to feel strong, look strong, and perform strong. To do that, you’ve got to work out, eat right, sleep well, and have your head filled with positivity. How far you take everything is up to you. What you put in is what you get out.
Workouts and workout plans come in all forms, shapes, and sizes. The options will always be endless. (Separately, check out this post about intuitive eating as it pertains to the other part of all of this: nutrition.) But a key piece is that you’re cycling through different phases with your plans. It doesn’t matter so much how many weeks you spend in each phase or what each phase entails. It comes down to how you feel and what your performance is. If your performance goes stagnant or drops or you feel terrible, it’s time to either shift your phase or pull back your training for a week or two.
If you’re looking for some more guidance on how to work different phases into your routine, we recommend the Size, Strength, and Shred Cycle. Here’s how the 3-phase plan works:
It starts with a “size” focused phase of training.
This is the best way to change your body composition (muscle vs. fat), in other words, how you look. (“Hypertrophy” as the smarty pants would say.) You could also start with strength, but here’s why chasing size first is OK too: With any new program you’re most likely going to experience beginner’s gains, even if you’re not a beginner. Training for hypertrophy will maximize that opportunity. And you’ll increase plenty of strength while doing so.
Next up: a strength phase.
During this phase you’re training the ability to lift heavier stuff. Why? Because after six weeks of hypertrophy training, you’ve potentially hit a slight plateau. The way you’re stimulating your body could use a change. Spike the weight up, drop the amount of reps you need, and use tricks like eccentric training to tap into more muscle fibers. Hopefully this block of time will allow you to lift heavier weights for future phases.
Finally, you move into a shred phase.
Now it’s full speed ahead for fat loss. In addition to the basic strength training, it could mean circuits or more HIIT training. Supersets, triplesets, and dropsets make a lot of sense here.
After you complete 16 weeks of training, some sort of pull back or recovery is smart.